DULUTH, Minn.-Advocates for women from the Duluth area reacted strongly to dramatic testimony from Christine Blasey Ford - the key witness in hearings that could make or break confirmation of a Supreme Court justice.
Blasey Ford on Thursday detailed her accusations of sexual assault against nominee Brett Kavanaugh, recalling a night at a party in 1982 when she was 15 years old. She described her terror in publicly relaying her allegations, and said she was doing so because she believed it was her "civic duty."
"It makes her a level of brave that is unprecedented," Duluth's Anna Tennis said. "She knows she's going to be torn to ribbons."
Tennis was working from home and watched the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for Kavanaugh in which Blasey Ford testified. Tennis, a member of the local Feminist Action Collective, said she was "shaken" by the testimony.
The Twin Ports has been responsive to the international #MeToo movement from its beginning, featuring multiple marches and rallies. The Feminist Action Collective grew out of the movement and overlapping resistance to President Donald Trump's election in 2016.
Tennis used that context to put Blasey Ford's testimony into further perspective.
She could not get over, she said, "the idea that this woman is standing in front of the United States, saying this happened and it's wrong, and then there's this big, pregnant pause as the United States stopped to think, 'Is this wrong?' "
Like Tennis, Shannon Larson choked up talking about the testimony. Larson is the domestic violence shelter coordinator for Dabinoo'Igan, a part of the American Indian Community Housing Organization.
"If everybody was heard on the (scale) that this is being heard, I think things would be a lot different in the domestic violence/sexual assault world," Larson said.
At the same time, she said, coming forward with sexual assault allegations "takes incredible strength."
Ed Heisler, following the hearing Thursday, agreed. Heisler is the co-executive director of the Duluth-based Men As Peacemakers, which focuses on preventing sexual assault and other forms of gender-based violence.
"Her making the choice to go public with this and to testify is a really courageous decision," he said. "I think this is a period of time when communities, and the country itself, have an opportunity to orient toward believing survivors when they speak and look at how to create justice and repair harm."
Kelly Burger, executive director of Superior's Center Against Sexual and Domestic Abuse, said that Thursday's testimony by Blasey Ford is likely a "terrifying moment" for people who have experienced sexual assault, but victims' voices are "getting stronger."
The #MeToo movement, she said, has fostered "really hard conversations" about beliefs.
"We as women deserve to be heard, and recognized and respected," Burger said.